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marketing communications assignment



International restrictions of tobacco advertising will reduce cigarette smoking. Discuss in relation to functions of advertising.





I would like to thank Dr. A. K. SRIVASTAVA, my course leader for Marketing Communications for his continuing interest, encouragement, and support in helping me complete this assignment.


We are all influenced by the thoughts and ideas of other people which tend to drift into the subconscious and are not always distinguished clearly from one’s own. I have attempted to give references for sources of work by other writers but apologise to any concerned if acknowledgement has inadvertently not been recorded. 




1.    Acknowledgements                                                          

2.    List of Figures                                                                  

3.    Abstract                                                                            

4.    Introduction                                                                      

5.    Cigarette Smoking                                                           

6.    Tobacco Advertising                                                        

7.    International Restrictions on Tobacco Advertising                  

8.    Limits to tobacco advertising may have little effect      

9.    Conclusion                                                                       



list OF Figures


1.    Major uses of advertising                                                

2.    Adv. expenditure of different US tobacco firms   

3.    Comparison of advertising to brand preference in adolescents and adults            

4.    Market concentration       




The use of cigarettes has become so wide-spread in the modern world that it is perceived as a necessity of life by many. Oblivious of the dangers of the chemicals in the smoke, smokers puff to achieve the virility and prowess so truthfully promised by the tobacco advertisements. Spending billions of dollars on advertising the tobacco industry has left no stone unturned in trying to ensure that their message is always around. Regardless of the ethical, moral and social considerations, tobacco firms have been manipulating consumers against their will. They have even invaded the tender minds of children to ‘catch them young’ and build valuable lifetime advocators. International restrictions on this dreadful menace have begun to grow but so has the opposition from the $ 400 billion tobacco industry. New methods of circumventing the restrictions soon follow the introduction of any bans. What is more troublesome is that sometimes the restrictions themselves worsen the situation. The only solution that can work is the adoption of comprehensive measures against tobacco advertising on a global scale, combined with effective public awareness campaign and social shunning of smokers. Only an integrated effort will be strong enough to face the antagonism that the restrictions receive from those who promote death in an ostentatiously macho fashion.  




With a cigarette in my hand, I felt like a man …

With a cigarette in my hand, I was a dead man.


The above two lines from an anti-smoking public message clearly indicate the illusionary position that cigarettes have occupied in modern society. The use of tobacco has been prevalent since time memorial in varied forms in almost all the cultures across the globe. “However, nobody is born craving tobacco and even its slaves instinctively loathe it.” (Wouk, H., 1991, p54). Cigarette smoking is a ‘necessary evil’ for some who indulge in it to relieve stress; while for others, especially teens, it is the ‘in’ thing, at times a pre-requisite to conform to the so-called standards of their smoke filled world.


Cigarette Smoking


Although many smoke because they believe cigarette calm their nerves, smoking releases epinephrine, the hormone which causes stress in the smoker rather than relaxation. The use of tobacco is highly addictive. One-third of the children who are just experimenting end up being addicted by the time they are 20. With increasing use people develop tolerance for nicotine and need greater amounts to produce the desired effect. Smokers become physically and psychologically dependent and suffer various types of painful, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Cigarette smoking is particularly dangerous for young children and teens because their body is still developing and the around 4000 chemicals in cigarette smoke can seriously affect this process. Cigarette smoking is perhaps the most disastrous preventable cause of disease and premature death. According to WHO estimates there are currently 3.5 million deaths annually from tobacco and is expected to rise to about 10 million by the year 2030. 70 % of these will occur in developing countries. Tobacco use has infact become a global disease burden. The negative impacts of both active and passive smoking has led to growth of tobacco use regulatory bodies and even greater international restrictions on tobacco advertising.



Tobacco Advertising


Advertising permeates everyone’s daily lives. According to the Raymond Bauer and Stephen Greyser “advertising is more than advertisement alone. It is an institutional part of our society, a social force affecting and affected by our style of life.” (Aaker, D.A., 1996, p549). The increasing use of technology for communication has led to the growth of advertising media such as television, radio, internet, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, public transport vehicles, outdoor displays etc., which can reach a variety of audiences.


“The tobacco industry is mature and may be declining. It has become an oligopoly. Players such as Phillip Morris (Marlboro) are able to continuously raise prices while reducing costs through technical advancements.” (Sootheby, D., 1990, p81). The $ 21.36 billion merger deal between British American Tobacco Plc. (BAT) and Rothmans International in January 1999 united BAT’s major international brands such as State Express 555, Lucky Strike and Kent with Rothmans’ eponymous brands Peter Stuyvesant and Dunhill “to bring big cost savings, extra cash generation and good geographical fit across the globe.” (Khaleej Times, Jan 1999, p23).




The social stigma attached to tobacco production, combined with the high cost of entering the industry, due to extensive product differentiation, economies of scale, access to distribution channels and benefits of experience curve, has kept new competition out and led to monopoly like profits. This has led to the increasing need by the existing players to sustain their market share by extensive advertising as well as for focusing on the international markets for cigarettes, especially UDCs, which is still growing in real terms.


Today the role that advertising performs for the tobacco industry is no longer limited to a representation of goods, ideas or services. Drawing upon the psychoanalytical model of consumer decision making, various types of motivational research have been conducted  and utilising various associations advertising has the power to go beyond a basic communication task, and create ‘emotional appeals’ that manipulate consumers against their will.


1.     Promote Products: The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars annually to promote their deadly products. The industry is increasingly using a variety of media. It should be remembered that what Marlboro, which effectively uses the print media, promotes  as its USP is not the features of a cigarette but the brand image. “The image of Marlboro is its USP, it is what distinguishes it from, say, Peter Stuyvesant.” (Evans, R.B., 1988, p20). “Marlboro advertisements feature rugged, maverick cowboys ‘who came up the hard way’. These verile men usually told something about their he-man lives and explained why they chose Marlboro.” (Onkvisit, S. and Shaw, J.J., 1998, p600). Thus a unique image was created that allowed a man to project himself through the cigarette he smoked. Within three years of launching the Old Camel Joe campaign R.J. Reynolds’ Camel brand cigarettes became as easily identifiable as the image of Mickey Mouse and its share in underage smokers rose from 0.5% to 32.8%. “Today competition can quickly copy advances in product formulation, but what they can’t copy is the brand personality.” (Doyle, P., 1994, p173).


The graph below shows the advertising expenditure of different US tobacco firms in 1993:




2.     Promote selective demand : To build a demand for  a selective brand, an advertiser turns to competitive advertising or comparative advertising. “A 20 year comparison of cigarette brands sales and advertisements found that people are more likely to buy the most highly advertised brands. Moreover adolescents identifying a favourable tobacco advertisement possessed some type of promotional item like T- shirts or were willing to us one.” (Peer, J. et al., 1998, p511). This reduces the risk of market share being lost to competitors and at the same time increases brand loyalty. A comparison of advertisements, in US (1993) to brand preference in adolescents and adults is shown in the following table:




3.     Offset Competitors Advertising: Various forms of defensive advertising can be used to lessen the effect of  a competitor’s advertisement campaign. Extensive campaigns by various tobacco firms has created ‘concentrated brand loyalty’ and there is little incentive to indulge in vigorous price competition as any price decrease would be immediately followed by a similar price change by the others. “This inelastic market demand situation in the cigarette industry has led to constant price increases, which average at more than 30 % since 1984, after adjusting for inflation.” (Kanrad, W., 1990, p52 cited by Maron, J.B. and Hazel, F.L., 1993 ).


4.     Distribution costs: Today organisations do not make an isolated use of a marketing tool. Advertising is a part of  a total integrated marketing communication program. Its prime function in the tobacco industry is to communicate to the large audience. Without advertisement, this function would still remain but would have to be accomplished by some other significantly expensive ways involved in the distribution process.


5.     Increase the use of a product: The absolute demand for any product in a given market is limited, but given the limit on demand and competitive conditions marketers can increase the sales by enlarging the product market. “Declining sales, growing legal and political battles and social shunning of smokers has made the US market less attractive for tobacco industries. Instead the growth comes from heightened marketing overseas.” (Mortan, M., 1991, p24).


6.     Remind and Reinforce: Marketers sometimes employ reminder advertising to remind customers that the established brand is still there. Reinforcement advertising, on the other hand tries to assure current users that they have made the right choice. Both reminder and reinforcement advertising aims to preserve market share. The importance of this function becomes significant for the tobacco industry as it is mature and any complacency on the part of the tobacco firms may lead to decline in their market position. Research studies in Scotland have shown that “oats, spinach and sunflower seeds may help stifle nicotine cravings, and eventually getting rid of the smoking habit.” (Gill, A.S., 1999, p17). Moreover within 12 hours of having the last puff, the human body starts detoxifying and healing itself, and therefore “doing without can also be thought of a substitute.” (Johnson, G. and Scholes,K.,1993, p93). To avoid such attempts by the smoker, cigarette manufacturers try to ‘wrap’ the customers in a plethora of advertising messages. For example, in one advertisement broadcast alone, of Marlboro grand prix, around 4000 advertisements for Marlboro appeared on TV.


7.     Reduce sales fluctuation: Advertising can be effectively used to circumvent the negative effects of business cycles. However cigarettes being highly addictive usually can be sold more by attracting new users through sales promotions and offering free trials. Marlboro, Rothmans have increasingly started using ‘strategic sales promotion’ to achieve these objectives.


8.     Providing pre-satisfaction: Advertising by generating associations between products and lifestyles, activities, and images adds to the perceived utility of cigarettes. Recalling the images shown in an advertisement a smoker experiences the emotions attached with it which pre-satisfies his ‘esteem’ needs and at the same time acts as a reinforcement for continued use.


9.     Encouraging new products: Advertising as an economical medium of mass communication helps in creating awareness about product developments and improvements. Wide spread awareness about low tar/ nicotine content cigarettes was easily achieved through advertising. It also helped achieve increased use among segments that required such product improvements.


10. Providing employment: The tobacco industry support millions of jobs. Moreover various advertisement agencies and magazines depend to a great extent on cigarette advertisements for their revenue.


The tobacco firms also resort to piggyback advertising. An advertisement for Tag Heuer watches prominently showed Senna, a racing driver, in a Marlboro car. Billboard advertising is also being increasingly used. Direct mailing, creative point of sale displays, free trials combined with specialised retail cigarette outlets, cigarette vending machines and transfer of brand images to other accessories (Dunhill watches, Wills sports gear) and the use of satellite communications has ensured a comprehensive, strong and persistent message - ‘Come and Buy!’


Having considered the various functions of advertising it is also important to consider the ethical issues involved in advertising. It is true that advertising as an occupation has an economic value, but does it add any ‘real’ value to the society as a whole when fostering materialism and harmful products like cigarettes? Advertisements can even manipulate consumers against their will. The argument that advertising is only influential in getting some people to try  a particular brand, but it has little impact on their decision to repurchase it, is not highly credible for products like cigarettes, which can easily hook a person after the initial try. Research evidence shows that children cannot understand the selling motives of advertisements and cannot easily distinguish between fantasy and reality. Moreover teens are twice as likely to be influenced to smoke by advertisements and promotions of cigarettes than they are from pressure from peer groups and family members, demographic characteristics or low school performance. Advertisers do not hesitate to promise triumph to failures, virility to weaklings, even prowess to little children, for the price of a pack of cigarettes. Advertising blasts everything that is good- love, nature, art, language and even youth with a horrid spreading mildew in the harness of commerce.


International Restrictions on Tobacco Advertising


The growing manipulation and lack of ethical concerns by the tobacco industry has led to the imposition of wide-spread restrictions on the advertising and sale of cigarettes. Perhaps no other industry has piqued such ethical concerns like the tobacco industry. “The tobacco industry attempts to maintain a positive image and public support by organising cultural and sports events and by funding educational institutions, elected officials, civic organisations and scholarship programs.”(Freeman, H., 1993, p43). However such circumventing efforts have little effect. Countries throughout the world have imposed restrictions in one way or the other. Nations with complete bans on cigarette advertising include Norway, Finland, Italy, Iceland, Mozambique, Algeria, Jordan, Bulgaria, Sudan, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Singapore. Significant restrictions are also imposed in US, where “in November 1998, 46 US states, the District of Columbia and five US territories endorsed a $ 206 billion settlement to be paid by tobacco firms over 25 years.” (Khaleej Times, Jan 21, 1998, p11). The money was to be used to discourage smoking among the youth and to defray the costs of caring for people with smoking related diseases. New agreements also stipulate that if a state believes that a tobacco firm is violating its terms, the state can impose civil or criminal sanctions. In the EU “draft EC legislation aims to outlaw cigarette advertising across all promotional media.” (Smith, P.R., 1996, p146). In some countries the advertising industry may have a local self regulatory organisation which regulates the contents of promotional activities. In England, for example, the Committee of Advertising Practices has issued new codes which require advertisements to be “legal, decent, honest and truthful.” (Toulson, A.K., 1995, p3). These agreements also specify that no positive claims be made about tobacco and that no tobacco advertising be permitted on television. Intense restrictions on tobacco advertising directed towards children are prevalent throughout the globe. In most countries placement of billboards is not allowed with 2000 feet of a school. In the UAE the growing intensity of smoking in schools has led to the government giving serious thought about imposing bans on smoking in schools and educational institutions. Restrictions are also being planned on the free trial-distribution of cigarettes and on the retail distribution to check the growing incidence of smoking in children. Increasingly countries are prohibiting smoking in airports and public offices to raise public awareness . Guidelines are also down on the printing of the details of the nicotine content, the warning message, its typeface, colours, positioning and prominence in all kinds of cigarette promotions.


Limits to tobacco advertising may have little effect


Faced with severe restrictions, the tobacco firms haven’t been idle. It is true that they may have agreed to curbs on advertising, especially those aimed at children, but along with this they have found some new circumventing measures as well. In UDCs health concerns take a back seat and the tobacco firms have started directing their efforts to these growing markets. Many anti-smokers were outraged to learn that the US state department provides a great deal of support to tobacco companies that target UDCs. The practice has been dubbed “delivering death to the third world.” (Mintz, M.,1991, p24). Even in countries with total bans tobacco firms interpret the law ‘creatively’. R. J. Reynolds, for example, advertised  ‘Camel Boots’ using the same model, trade mark, colours and lettering in the world Camel as those used in Camel cigarettes advertisements. When the Marlboro cowboy was banned in England, on the grounds that cowboy worship among children might induce them to take up smoking, the company used non cowboys driving around Marlboro country in a jeep. The image of Marlboro is so strong that the message was readily understood . In a recent survey in Norway of a movie audience 50 % said that they had just seen a cigarette advertisement although what they had really watched was an advertisement for Marlboro branded clothing in which cigarettes weren’t seen or even mentioned. Almost all tobacco firms resort to adverting for other associated products, for example, Dunhill lighter and Pall Mall watches.



This leads us to the central question - do restrictions on tobacco advertising really help reduce cigarette smoking? Advertising researchers have developed adequate tests and techniques that ensure that the message of the tobacco firms cuts through the clutter of mind, effectively creating a desire to smoke and eventually turning a person into a chain smoker. But it is instructive to consider whether the restrictions have had any undesirable, unanticipated consequences. Research conducted by Sheldon and Doroodian highlighted the “effects of cigarette advertising on demand, and the reaction of consumers and industry to government health warnings during the 1952-84 period.” (Sheldon, B.J. and Doroodian, K., 1989 cited by Aaker, D.A., 1996, p575). It was concluded that when an advertising medium was removed total industry advertising was reduced. But the industry increased its advertising in response to health warnings which also increased consumption. Using the cigarette industry advertising ban of 1970, it was found that “demand becomes more inelastic with respect to advertising fluctuations if television and radio can no longer be used as media vehicles.” (Holak, S. L. and Reddy, S. K., 1996 cited by Aaker, D.A., 1996, p575). Thus a ban may have both positive and negative effects. A  ban may actually help to increase brand loyalty. Even the tobacco firms agree that their advertising is geared towards brand choice rather than increasing consumption. This also effectively means that a ban may serve as a barrier to entry. Speculation cannot be avoided that this is what some tobacco firms may try to seek at times of unfavourable market situations. The effectiveness of advertising bans in reducing cigarette smoking is also highly doubtful when we consider the results in some countries with total bans where the smoking rates have indeed grown faster than in other countries with partial or no bans.




The long term mission of global tobacco control to reduce smoking prevalence and consumption in all countries among all groups may take several decades to achieve. The outright banning of cigarette advertising may not be the effective solution. It might be possible for the government to restrict advertising levels through mandatory controls on the advertising budgets or imposition of taxes on advertising. However, a remedy can be worse than the original problem. What is required is a comprehensive, well laid out smoking policy, not a hodge podge plan. ‘No smoking’ signs are a constant reminder that smoking does not make one strong or sexually  more attractive. The main goal behind the mission is to highlight awareness at all levels in a society. Despite the seriousness of the problem there is evidence to show that countries which have undertaken a ‘comprehensive’ action towards control on tobacco advertising have been successful. The importance lies in considering the best mix of specific intervention required to achieve the goal of increased cessation and lowered initiation. Advertising itself can be used to achieve these goals if used as a ‘social tool’ by the government. However the objectives and the restrictions to achieve them will vary according to each country’s political, social, cultural and economic reality. These measures will have to be strong enough to face the opposition that they receive from the $ 400 billion industry whose business is to promote death through these harmful products, in the disguise of an ostentatiously macho image








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